Volume 97, Issue 3
Thursday, June 5, 2003

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Western growth makes area "look like Moscow Blvd."

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Like a well-fed child Western is expecting to grow, but local land owners are hoping the university is put on a diet.

Western is attempting to prepare for future growth by securing a zoning change that would ensure campus area land west of Richmond St. will be available for the university to obtain and expand.

"Western is asking the city to amend its official plans so land currently zoned regional facility (land for institutional not private use) will remain in that designation," said Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer. If the land in question is maintained as regional facility land, then it will not be available for sale to private bidders, Mercer explained. Instead, it will remain available if Western needs to expand, he added.

The proposed zoning change would mean if anyone asks for a zoning change on the affected land, the city would make its decision taking into account Western's plans for growth, Mercer said.

Some campus area lands are zoned as regional facilities, but do not belong to Western, such as Brescia University College and Huron University College lands, explained Vic Cote, city planning manager at London's city hall.

Cote said the university objected when a private developer successfully changed the zoning and built a housing unit on the Scatcherd land on Sarnia Rd. The proposed zoning change would mean that if, for example, Brescia or Huron wanted to sell some land to a private developer the city would not support the necessary zoning change, Cote added.

"We are very sympathetic to Western's plans to expand," said Theresa Topic, principle of Brescia. The land Brescia sits on is actually owned by the Ursuline Sisters of the Chatham Union, Topic added.

"We do have our own property and we don't want to be subject to the control of a neighbour, even if it is Western," said Ramona Lumpkin, principle of Huron. Huron owns approximately 35 acres of undeveloped land, Lumpkin explained. "We would hope that our interests and Western's don't conflict."

Phillip Aziz, a local artist and former professor at Western, has refused to sell his property – which lies behind Essex Hall residence – to the university. As a result, Western's campus has expanded to surround his home.

"Physical expansion should not be pursued at the expense of academic expansion," Aziz said.

"It's starting to look like Moscow Boulevard around here," Aziz complained, noting the saturation of the area with Western buildings.

It is understandable Western needs to expand physically, but this has been carried out a little too far, Aziz said.

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2002 THE GAZETTE